Big National Checklists - GBIF Data Blog

Here I plot the total names in checklists published on GBIF linked to a single country. A checklist dataset is a term for any dataset that contains primarily a list of taxonomic names. National species checklists are lists of species recorded from a country usually through some organized effort. GBIF has published a guide on best practices for making national checklist datasets, which advises making national checklists as big as possible.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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The gaps for the US, Australia and New Zealand could/should all be relatively easy to address using ITIS, the Australian National Species Lists and New Zealand Organisms Register.

It would be a valuable step to get all of these regularly updated in the same format and accessible alongside the other checklists you’ve identified.

As you note, it would also be great to get the national-scale biogeography from Fauna Europaea and similar.

Thanks for pointing out ITIS. I knew there would probably be some checklist that I have missed. I think I may have missed it because I thought it was a not a regional checklist.

It’s a little more complicated. ITIS is both a US (or north American) list and a global list for some groups, but I believe a US-only list should be easily exported.

A few ITIS records seem to fill in the species distribution extension, so it might be possible to parse them into USA, Canada, Mexico, states ect…

Hello. I’m new to this list and joined because I’m doing research on Alien Invasive Species (IAS) management in developing regions. I don’t know if this will be considered to be ‘off-topic’, but I’ve just completed a literature review to be published later this year. One of the aims was to determine which databases and search strategies produce the most IAS data on developing regions, and to determine geographical and other sources of bias in existing databases.

Using sub-Saharan Africa and, in greater depth, Ethiopia as a case study, I found that the GISD (Global Invasive Species Database) and the CABI Invasive Species Compendium (CABI ISC), the largest global IAS databases, do not reflect the status of IAS as reflected in the control literature. GISD and CABI contain a very different set of species - CABI ISC includes species that threaten natural ecosystems but also that affect human-dominated ecosystems and human well-being; the GISD includes only species threatening ‘natural’ ecosystems and native species. I have mainly used CABI ISC because it much better reflects what developing countries are actually doing to attempt to control IAS. I use the existence of country-specific literature that targets species for control as evidence of the species’ presence and threats in that country.

Two figures and a table illustrate. The table shows how I located the literature in the first place. Most of the literature on IAS management cannot be located using ‘invasive species’ search terms. Instead, it is found using search terms such as ‘weeds’ and ‘biocontrol’. The figures show something even more interesting. They compare the status of IAS in Ethiopia as reported by the CABI ISC with the number of citations found in the Ethiopian control literature for the ISC-listed species. The GISD database contains only 20 of the 110 species that are control targets in Ethiopia that are listed in the ISC database. The GISD reports only 8 of these 20 species as invasive in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian literature deals with an additional 109 species not listed in either database, but that are considered as ‘problematic’ and damaging for humans and ecosystems. It seems to me that, to begin to determine the status of IAS in developing countries at least, one has to locate the literature on IAS management.

As well, there appears to be a ‘conservation-development schism’ in these two databases; many scientists argue that developing countries aren’t doing enough to manage IAS, but they often lack an evidence base for such assertions.

Pleased to hear any feedback.


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Hi @phoward,

I am not an expert on invasive alien species, but what you describe sounds very interesting. One of the main use-cases for checklists are invasive alien species tracking. Most of the checklists coming from Africa and Asia are invasive alien lists. If the checklists are not capturing all of the invasive species, this would imply more work is needed. Would be nice to read the paper when you publish it.

I link your figure below since it was not displaying in your link.

Thanks very much - I wasn’t aware that these checklists were mainly AIS, and I’d be interesting in learning more - any sources for this info that you could share?

I know that countries are ‘obliged’ to provide AIS checklists; I don’t know how they’re coming up with them though. CABI researchers recently finished an 8-year (partial) ground survey of IAS in eastern Africa, and said that “With a few exceptions, comprehensive lists of alien plants that invade natural ecosystems are lacking in sub-Saharan Africa. Some available lists are either preliminary or localised, or focus on agricultural weeds. This study set out to compile a list of alien plant species that are invading natural ecosystems and rangelands in five countries in eastern Africa, and to map the distribution of the species that threaten ecosystem integrity and productivity.” See Witt et al., An assessment of the distribution and potential ecological impacts of invasive alien plant species in eastern Africa.
Happy to send the publication to anyone who requests.

I was pointed to this UK checklist on twitter, but I don’t think it is published on GBIF.

Hi @dodobot. Thank you for this work on checklists. I think I am missing some checklist datasets for Spain that are available through GBIF ( in your map

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Hi! To find out what I can do, say @dodobot display help.

Probably better to ping @jwaller here…

Hi Cristina, thanks for pointing those out. I chose to not tag datasets that include multiple regions like “Iberia”. I was attempting to inventory checklist tied to a single country. If we continue down this line of trying to curate checklist better, we will probably have a better way to tag complex checklists like the Iberian ones.

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ok I understand the scope now. thank you @jwaller I think we will be publishing a couple of national checklist soon